Why Take Herbs?

This is something I thought about today… why take herbs? Well, the way I see it is that herbs are what we humans have been consuming for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. Our bodies are made of the plants and animals that we have eaten since time memorial. It makes sense that when the body is imbalanced we would take those things that our body is best adapted to.


Does this mean that herbs can cure everything? No, of course not. Humans are not immortal (at least in the material planes) although we often try really hard to avoid death. Sometimes (and eventually) our bodies become imbalanced and we pass away. In Chinese medicine and culture this is called the separation of Yin and Yang.

Taking the wrong herbs can make us feel worse but taking the right ones can put us back on the road to health. Some diseases are beyond the capabilities of Chinese Herbs and Western pharmaceuticals may be more appropriate. Chinese herbs can be very broad in their effects on the body. They affect systems of the body and therefore restore the body’s ability to heal itself.

The Chinese system of medicine works well because it has mapped an integrated structure to human physiology. This viewpoint may not be well accepted by western science because western sciences tends to look at things through the microscope while eastern sciences try to see the broadest perspective as most important.

But lets come back to herbal formulas which have not just one action on the body (for example the way a western diuretic medication may) but on all those systems of urination. This will include supporting kidney function which also promotes urination. In other words, we give strength to the kidney to allow it to empty the bladder. This then is different from just changing potassium and sodium balances in the cells. Many times a single herb can have several functions but usually we have several herbs in the formula together even for just one complaint or symptom.

So how do we find the right formula or group of herbs for ourselves? Well this has been discussed since the beginning of Chinese medicine. Current Chinese medicine heavily utilizes the organ diagnosis or zang-fu system method. As I discussed in the Japanese Kampo page, Eagleherbs has gone back to a system which pre-dates the modern system and I believe is more relevant for many herbalists and certainly for an on-line site like Eagleherbs.

Ban Bian Lian Learning Garden IngridFrom running Eagleherbs for two years now I would say that about one third of our customers have been prescribed their herbs by another herbalist and find Eagleherbs preferable.  The reason is generally not cost but convenience because their herbalist doesn’t have a full herbal pharmacy. Another third of our customers go through some sort of consultation through Eagleherbs.com by myself through emails or phone calls or with a paid consultation with Marie or myself. The last third have been through the web-site and think they have an idea of what they want to try. Either they resonate with the formula or otherwise their symptoms line up with what we describe on the website.

This last group is where we try our best to provide the best service we can for those who choose their own formulas.  All of us non- MD’s are limited by not being able to make “disease claims”. For example, there may be a formula which I would use almost every time for someone with a specific symptom in Sjorgeon’s Syndrome but the FDA will not let me say that I use this for Sjorgeon’s. But I can mention the symptom. Not that this limitation is the worst thing in the world because in those 10% of cases where it wouldn’t be appropriate, it might be disastrous for the patient.

If we can’t make disease claims then we can make “structure-function” statements. What this means for us is that we can recommend products that the consumer can make a reasonable self-diagnosis for. Again, a patient may know they have a diagnosis of X-disease but only because an MD has confirmed it. If XY and Z are symptoms of diabetes we can’t directly state that our products for symptoms XY and Z are good for the X-disease. We can only state in symptoms and Chinese medicine terms what the formula can do.  Its an interesting problem and Al Stone wrote an interesting “tutorial/class” on it at his other website: gancao.net.

Therefore on Eagleherbs, we tend to have many formulas listed with absolutely no description at all. This targets persons who know exactly what they want because either their own research, a licensed practitioner, myself or Marie has told them that this is the right formula for them. I feel like we don’t have to create elaborate descriptions of our products because much of that research is done on the internet by the customers themselves.

On-line sales is not perfect (but then again I have seen any number of bad choices made by in-person licensed herbalists) but we try to provide you with the tools for you to make the best purchase. If you want to order from us go through site and get a feel for what it has to say. Don’t rely on a single symptom and especially don’t rely on a western diagnosis. If in doubt you can email me and of course if you have a complex, problematic or acute situation see your MD. Be well, very well.